The daily business briefing: January 2, 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi becomes top earner of 2017, Gretchen Carlson named chair of Miss America's board, and more

Gretchen Carlson at a SiriusXM event
(Image credit: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi becomes top earner of 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi led the box office with a $52.4 million haul over the weekend, overtaking Beauty and the Beast to become the top grossing film in North America in 2017. The Last Jedi raised its domestic total to $517.1 million, ahead of Beauty and the Beast's net of $504 million. The eighth installment in the Star Wars franchise is expected to cross the $1 billion threshold globally before it opens in Japan on Jan. 5. Over the weekend, Dwayne Johnson's Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle came in a close second with $50.6 million.

The Associated Press Los Angeles Times

2. Gretchen Carlson named chair of Miss America board

Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News anchor and 1989 Miss America, on Monday was named chairwoman of the Miss America organization's board of directors. She is the first former Miss America named to lead the pageant organization. Three other past winners will join her on the board. The leadership change came less than two weeks after CEO Sam Haskell and two other top leaders resigned under pressure over leaked emails in which they made insulting comments about the intelligence and sex lives of former Miss Americas. In a statement, Carlson said those who love the program want "a strong, relevant Miss America and we appreciate the existing board taking the steps necessary to quickly begin stabilizing the organization for the future."

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The Associated Press

3. U.S. stocks head into 2018 searching for direction

U.S. stocks futures signaled a mixed start to trading in the new year on Tuesday. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 inched up, while Nasdaq-100 futures dropped by 4 points to 6,405. Without fresh economic data on tap, concerns over geopolitical tensions over Iran and North Korea weighed on the markets. All three of the main U.S. benchmarks closed 2017 with slight losses to end a year of big gains. The Dow rose by 25 percent in 2017 and the Nasdaq rose by 28 percent, while the S&P 500 gained 19 percent.

MarketWatch

4. Oil prices start year with surge above $60 a barrel

Oil prices got their strongest new-year start since since 2014 on Tuesday. U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose by 0.4 percent to $60.63 a barrel, and international benchmark Brent crude futures gained 0.5 percent to hit $67.18, marking the first time since January 2014 that both had started a year above $60 a barrel. Rising unrest in Iran, a major oil exporter, contributed to the bullish market sentiment, as did falling global inventories and strong economic growth, analysts said.

Reuters

5. Powerful Hollywood women launch anti-harassment project

A group of A-list Hollywood stars including Reese Witherspoon, Eva Longoria, Shonda Rhimes, Ashley Judd, and Natalie Portman on Monday announced the Time's Up initiative to confront sexual misconduct and power abuse in the workplace. The move came after a year of sexual misconduct allegations in entertainment and other industries. Hundreds of women in show business signed a letter in a full-page ad published in The New York Times and the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion, promising to support working-class women. "If this group of women can't fight for a model for other women who don't have as much power and privilege, then who can?" Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes said to the Times.

USA Today The New York Times

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